Public is in the ring in fight over Kern River

 •  by Lois Henry
A rope swing hangs over a dry Kern River in this 2020 file photo. CREDIT: Lois Henry

It was clear during the first hearing on the Kern River Tuesday that the public has a seat at the table as never before.

Tuesday’s hearing was mostly procedural — setting out which issues would be sorted first and how. Permeating the discussion at nearly every turn, however, was the public trust doctrine, which gives the public a right to natural resources, such as a river with actual water in it.

The state holds that right in trust for the public and must consider it along with all the other rights claimed on the river, something attorney Adam Keats repeatedly reminded the State Water Resources Control Board Administrative Hearing Officer of at Tuesday’s hearing.

“Public trust issues are relevant and should be considered in all phases,” of the Kern River proceedings, Keats said. “Public trust should pervade every decision the board makes.”

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Lois Henry
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